South Africa star batsman AB de Villiers believes that the Tshwane Spartans will add richly to the sporting tapestry of a city where, much like the Greek legends from which the new franchise draws its name, fans have grown accustomed to the taste of victory.
De Villiers stepped out at the launch of the Tshwane Spartans as the franchise’s marquee player for the new Mzansi Super League and there is no mistaking where ‘Mr 360’ wants to ply his trade.
“I grew up here, I love playing cricket here, and this is where it all started for me. I could not have asked for a better base to play my cricket at,” De Villiers said at the Spartans’ home-ground SuperSport Park on Thursday.
Despite retiring from the international game earlier this year De Villiers remains one of the biggest drawcards in the sport and is delighted that Cricket South Africa has launched the Mzansi Super League.
“It is a huge step in the right direction for Cricket South Africa, and South African cricket. As a unit, we’ll be looking to not just pull this tournament off, but make it a great spectacle for fans around the world to enjoy.”
The Spartans squad is littered with star quality including England One-Day captain Eoin Morgan, young Standard Bank Proteas fast bowler Lungi Ngidi and Sri Lankan all-rounder Jeewan Mendis. De Villiers is looking forward to working alongside all of them and simply getting back on the field after a few months off.
“I am extremely excited. I haven’t played cricket for a while, but I am getting back into swing of things. I have had these kinds of breaks before and it is always a challenge to get fit and hit balls again. I am really looking forward to that, and what will be a really good challenge in the Mzansi Super League.”
As much as De Villiers sees the new league having international appeal, it’s at the home ground in Centurion where he expects the most fan-friendly cricket venue in the country to deliver an unmatched experience.
“Tshwane has just got a fantastic atmosphere,” said De Villiers. “It’s the braai capital of South Africa, the people are friendly and they really get behind their team and I’m sure they will get behind the Tshwane Spartans.”
The Spartans will play the opening game of the Mzansi Super League against the Cape Town Blitz at PPC Newlands on November 16. De Villiers will play his first home game for his new team against the Nelson Mandela Bay Giants on November 25.
TSHWANE SPARTANS SQUAD:
AB de Villiers (c), Eoin Morgan, Lungi Ngidi, Robbie Frylinck, Jeewan Mendis, Theunis de Bruyn, Rory Kleinveldt, Sean Williams, Gihahn Cloete, Lutho Sipamla, Tony de Zorzi, Dean Elgar, Andrew Birch, Sikander Raza, Shaun von Berg, Eldred Hawken.